Interpenetrating networks (IPNs) of novolac (phenol formaldehyde) resin and poly(butyl acrylate) (PBA) were prepared by a sequential mode of polymerization. Both full IPNs and semi-IPNs of different compositions were synthesized and characterized with respect to their mechanical properties, that is, their modulus, ultimate tensile strength (UTS), elongation-at-break percentage, and toughness. Their thermal properties were examined with differential scanning calorimetry and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). A morphological study was performed with an optical microscope. The effects of the variation of the blend ratios on the aforementioned properties were studied. There was a gradual decrease in the modulus and UTS with a simultaneous increase in the elongation-at-break percentage and toughness for both types of IPNs as the proportions of PBA were increased. With increasing proportions of PBA, the glass-transition temperatures of the different IPNs underwent shifts toward a lower temperature region. This showed a plasticizing influence of PBA on the rigid and brittle phenolic matrix. TGA thermograms depicted the classical two-step degradation for the phenolic resin. Although there was an apparent increase in the thermal stability at the initial stage (up to 350°C), particularly at lower temperatures, a substantial decrease in the thermal stability was observed at higher temperatures under study. In all the micrographs of full IPNs and semi-IPNs, two-phase structures were observed, regardless of the PBA content. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 97: 2407–2417, 2005
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